FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calf. - Phoenix-based Soldiers from the 198th Regional Support Group received, integrated and moved more than 6,500 Soldiers to their initial staging bases during annual training June 25 - July 14 in preparation for the 84th Training Division's Combat Support Training Exercise at Fort Hunter Liggett, California.

The dust billowed in the distance as the sound of diesel engines grew nearer. A convoy of tactical vehicles approached followed by an army of civilian buses. U.S. Army Reservists and National Guard units from throughout the country descended on the rolling hills and sunbaked vineyards of Fort Hunter Liggett, California. An array of patches, accents and cultures representing America's Citizen-Soldiers participated in the 84th Training Division's Combat Support Training exercise.

A year of preparation culminated as Arizona's finest stood ready to receive Soldiers as they arrived. The Guardsmen's weathered faces were salted from perspiration and lined with dirt from a week of labor in the desert's harsh summer conditions. Teachers, financial advisors and rocket-scientists were among the diverse weekend-warriors who traded in their business casual attire for Army greens for three-weeks of annual training.

The Phoenix-based Soldiers from the 198th Regional Support Group received, integrated and moved more than 6,500 Soldiers to their initial staging bases in preparation for the CSTX.

"The RSG had two major parts in the exercise," said Col. Christopher Sandison, RSG commander. "First, we provided life support and initial defense of our area. Then, we provided mission command through the RSOI process."

Maj. Daniel Davis, RSG administrative officer-in-charge, said the RSOI process is important because it provides ready troops to combatant commanders. Though the Army's administrative process is rarely acknowledged by the collective consciousness of the American public, or even most troops, it's a vital step toward providing combat ready troops for battle.

Capt. Janet Baca, RSG headquarters and headquarters commander, said the process allows for accountability of all the Soldiers coming into a theater of operations. Soldiers are also briefed and provided vital information about their area of operation to acclimatize them to their combat environment to ensure Soldiers are fully informed and can concentrate on their warrior tasks.

"This is the first time the RSG has been able to perform their wartime mission," Sandison said. "The Soldiers came out here and performed and adapted to austere working conditions and performed admirably."

The RSG is the strongest it's ever been. As the unit begins preparation for a coming deployment, the RSG has received Soldiers from throughout the Arizona Army National Guard.

"I thought this CSTX was great," said Spc. Natalie Carmen, military policeman with the RSG's protection cell. "I didn't know anyone prior to this exercise. I was able to not only learn my job - to protect, serve and defend - but I made lifelong friendships."

The young Soldier's sentiment was shared from the top down.

"The experience we gained here was vital as we move forward to deployment," Davis explained. "The RSG has a new structure, so we have a lot of new staff. We accomplished our mission, but we were also able to build our team and unit cohesion prior to our pre-mobilization and deployment."

Carmen added, "It's really hot here. Looking at the conditions, you wouldn't think so few of us would be able to build and tear down our base camp so quickly while also processing thousands of Soldiers into the CSTX. There was so much amazing team work that went into this exercise."

Strangers boarded a pair of chartered buses June 25, but returned home three weeks later an accomplished team. A team that performed four of their unit's major tasks, instead of the required two, and accomplished individual and collective tasks while handling real-word emergencies.

"The Soldiers experienced realistic training and accomplished every mission given to them," Sandison said. "We expanded operations within the first week for cantonment support, performed 24-hour operations, and even helped tenant units during an emergency fire. The Soldiers were stressed, in a good way, and they performed excellently."